Friday, November 11, 2005

The Dream Came True

It was 1986 and I was 12 years old when I saw my mom and dad compete at the Hawaii Ironman. I remember running along side of my dad in my flip-flops while he was somewhere in the beginning of the marathon. I wanted to continue running with him as he was having a hard time because of the heat and I think he knew he wasn’t going to be able to finish as tears welled up in his eyes. I told him I wish I had my running shoes so that I could run the whole thing with him and he’d be able to finish. I wasn’t able to go very far with him and I soon turned around to wait with my grandma at the finish line. He didn’t finish because of dehydration; my mom though finished and I was able to see her come across the finish line. It was here that the dream to compete in Ironman was first established; at twelve years old I knew that someday I’d come back to compete here and someday win.

At 3:45am on October 15, 2005 I awoke, gathered my race equipment and Jay, mom, dad, Erin, my cousin Serena and I drove from our hotel in Captain Cook to Starbucks. This was the day that I had been dreaming about for 18 years and I needed to start the day off right, with a cup of coffee! I tried to eat some oatmeal as well, but because I was nervous I don’t think I got a lot of food in. We walked from Starbucks down to the transition area where I was body marked. I proceeded to put my nutrition gels into the bike and run gear bags and then tape my Power Bars and electrolyte pills to my top tube. I double and even triple checked to make sure I had everything on my bike and then walked out of transition to meet up with Jay and my folks. I found my dad and Erin waiting for me, but Jay, Serena and my
mom had gone to secure a place to sit on the sea wall to watch the start. Dad and Erin helped me put on sunscreen and stayed with me until it was time to get to the water. The each wished me good luck and gave me a huge hug.
As I waited on the stairs before entering the beach, I finished off a gel with some water and said hello to a few of my competitors. I would wear my pink and silver Speedo suit with a silver one-piece fast skin over the top to help with fluid dynamics. Once the swim was over I’d take off the top suit and complete the race in just the swimsuit. The water was a bit chilly at 6:30 and it took me a bit to get used to it. I did a nice warm up and kept moving until it was time to line up in the water underneath a rope that designated the start line. Our start time was 6:45am. The group of professionals were getting anxious and kept inching forward while the officials were telling us to keep moving back behind the line. I guess someone got jumpy and started to swim and then the rest of us started as well. I didn’t hear the cannon go off until a few seconds after we had started. I thought that we might actually get called back because someone false started, but we didn’t…they just let us go.

I’m not sure how many of us started but I’m glad that the amateurs didn’t start until 15 minutes after we did, as it was a bit crowded out there for us. It took a while for our group to eventually spread out and I did get hit a few times by some girl. I stayed with a group of people for quite some time and then for some reason I found myself alone. I saw ahead of me a group and I thought I’d better pick it up to catch them. I eventually did and stayed with them for the remainder of the swim. I kept it comfortable as this was my first 2.4-mile swim without a wetsuit and I thought there was not a huge advantage to swim as fast as I could in this distance race. I finished the swim in 1:02; slower than I had originally wanted to, but I exited the water with some of the top women in the sport. I exited the water and ran past the T1 gear bags, grabbed mine and headed straight into the change tent. Across from me was Desiree Ficker; I said hi as I quickly took off my outer swimsuit and grabbed my sunnys and race belt and headed out of the change tent to my bike. I put my helmet on, got the bike and ran out to the mount line.

The first section on the bike course was a figure eight that was partly a false flat on the way out on Kuakini Highway with a nice downhill on the way back towards town and then a nice short uphill on Palani Dr. to the Queen K highway. Here is where we’d stay for the majority of the 112-mile ride. I had originally thought that this course was basically flat with high winds and humidity. I was wrong. It’s not extremely hilly, but there were undulating rollers and I had to get out of the saddle a few times too.

The week before the race I rode out from Kaiwaehi towards Hawi. This is typically where high winds and gusts normally made it difficult for the competitors. I was very thankful for the two women who invited me along to go with them, Lydia and Diana; two amateur athletes who raced here before and knew the course. That 24-mile ride was one of the scariest rides I’ve done! (The scariest was riding across the Golden Gate Bridge one day with 45-mile/hour winds…I actually sat down on the bridge and hung on to my bike for dear life. It would have blown away if I hadn’t…but I digress.) I couldn’t even get down on my aero bars for fear that I’d be blown into the street or worse, off of my bike. I was thinking to myself, “why did I want to do this? I could have done a different IM.” After this short ride, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to pre-ride it or not. Oh well. But it really sucked! So on race day when I was getting closer to the windy section, I kept my eye on the ocean. If there were horrible wind chop I would know that the wind would be horrendous. I also kept my eye on the athlete in front of me…if they wavered into the street, then I should be aware that it would happen to me and to hang on! Well, there was no wind chop on the ocean and the athletes seemed to be just fine. There was a head wind up to Hawi, but a nice tail wind on the way back. Just past the turn around there was the special needs pickup. I slowed down a bit to make sure I could grab my bag. I was really looking forward to drinking my Red Bull and hoping it would give me wings when I got the bottle and realized that the top had popped off and spilled into the bag leaving only two sips in the bottle! I was bummed. I took the two sips and tossed the bottle to the side. Got my other bottle and my gel flask and threw the bag to a volunteer. I now had a tail wind and a downhill and wish that I could have pushed the pedals harder. For some reason I just didn’t have the extra energy to do so. I don’t know if I didn’t have enough to eat, not trained enough or was just tired. Maybe it was a combination of all three? I couldn’t wait to be done with the bike, especially with about 25 miles to go as the big toe on my right foot started to ache. It was almost more than an ache, but a sharp pain that would come and go. I contemplated taking my foot out of the shoe and resting it on top to let it breath and let my toes stretch out; but then I thought that if I did that I wouldn’t want to put my foot back in the shoe, so I opted to leave it in there and then relish at T2 when I could eventually take it out. People kept passing me during the later part of the ride and I kept thinking to myself that it was okay…I still had to run a marathon and I would hopefully pass a good chunk of those who’d passed me on the bike. Oh and another thing that blew my mind was a 55 year old guy passed me on the bike! I couldn’t believe it. Then I had some women over 45 pass me too! Holy crap. Was I going really slow or what?

I was so thankful when I took my feet out of my shoes, entered T2 and handed my bike to a volunteer! My bike split was 5:41, which averages out to 19.7mph. I grabbed my run bag and went into the change tent; took my time adjusting my toes, putting on my socks and shoes, grabbing my run race belt all the while a volunteer was putting sunscreen on me…thank you! I exited the change tent, grabbed a cup of water and was on the run course. The first section of the run, approximately 10 miles was an out and back section on Kuakini Highway and Alii Dr.
It was great to see so many spectators and friends of mine out there that I didn’t even know would be there! I felt good during this section and tried to keep my pace even. This section had a few small rolling hills, but was otherwise flat until I got to Palani Dr. and had to run up a good size climb while the spectators where cheering and yelling quite fiercely for every athlete out there. Once you get to the top, you make a left hand turn onto the Queen K and head north towards the Natural Energy Lab. I tried to take as many sips from my gel flask as possible, but at some point, you just don’t want to have another gel! I had to force myself to keep ingesting it. There were still athletes heading toward the finish on their bikes as I made my way down towards Energy Lab (EL). Even though I knew it was warm outside, only once did I actually feel hot; running out of the EL with the sun on my back. Of course I used the sponges at every aid station and took in fluids too.

I did not take a look at this part of the course before the race, so I had no idea how far I actually had to run before we made our turn around and headed home and out of EL. I was going to ask someone near me, but thought that I better not. I would just keep running. It was about a mile and a half I would guess before I reached the turn around. It was such a good site to see. By looking at some of the other competitors’ faces I knew I was in pretty good shape although I knew also that my pace had slowed and I no longer felt that snappy feeling. What I really wanted to do I remember was brush my teeth! Was I delirious? Maybe. Funny how random thoughts are allowed in when you’re out there for so long. Heading toward the finish along the Queen K and making that right turn down Palani Dr. was really something. There were still loads of spectators cheering the athletes with approximately one mile to go. Ahead of me I saw a pro women and knew that I had to catch her. I picked up my pace and steadily ran by her. The crowds were now so much more intense on Alii Dr. that I couldn’t help but pick up my pace again and with my signature pink hair and gleaming smile I ran through the finish chute weaving back and forth slapping spectators hands like I had just finished first. My marathon time was 3:33; 10 minutes slower here than at Lake Placid. My overall time was 10:22:02 and with that time I placed 32/54 pro women.
As soon as I crossed the line, two volunteers were right beside me just in case! I had told myself though that I would not need the medical tent this time around and I didn’t. I was escorted out of the finishing area to pick up my finisher’s shirt and medal, get photographed and finally reuniting with my family and boyfriend, Jay.

We walked over to get a massage and I wish it could have lasted longer! I started to get cold, so we wandered over to the hot tub where I soaked until I was warm while chatting with one of my competitors. I then got into the pool to cool off and then make our way to the transition to pick up the rest of my gear and then find a place to eat dinner! I did have a few stomach issues afterwards and by that I just mean some cramping. I was extremely exhausted and other than wanting to eat, I also wanted to sleep! By the time we finished dinner and drove the 25 minutes back to Captain Cook all I wanted to do was take a shower and get to bed.

The next morning I found myself to be quite sore and had the IM gimp going on. You don’t know what that is??? It’s the walk that almost every competitor has that signifies that you raced IM the day before. You can’t miss it. We had a nice breakfast and then headed to the beach to rest and relax and catch some sun. That evening was the awards ceremony and it was a nice presentation. We stayed almost to the very end, but again knew that we had a bit of a drive ahead of us to get home.

All in all, I had a great experience out there and now know what I need to work on for the next time around.

In 2005 an 18-year-old dream came true.

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